An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Socializing Stray, Deaf Cat

Dear Greyce,

I’m a neutered male around two years old, with long white hair and blue eyes. Like all white-haired blue-eyed cats, I’m deaf. And I’m having problems adjusting to my new home.

I was abandoned on the street. Fortunately, some people found me. They took me to the vet and had me neutered.

 Now I have been placed in a foster home. I’ve settled in the kitchen, where I have what I need: dry and soft food, access to water and my litter box. From time to time, the purrsons use the kitchen, too.

 The first day, I hid under the sofa. When I saw that they did not want to hurt me, I came out.
 It is now my 6th day in my foster home. I sleep. Sometimes I go for a walk. I stay on the sofa when they are in the room. When they look me in the eyes, I hiss.


 I’m a very scared cat. And it is difficult for me to trust people again. But I would like to live in a home and not out on the street. Please help me become a trusting cat again.


Angora Angel in Bulgaria

Dear Angora Angel,

You didn’t leave your name, so I chose this one for you - at least for our correspondence.

Congratulations on being rescued! I, too, was abandoned and on my own during the winter (if you can imagine) for almost a month before Herself found me. And I’m very grateful to have a home.

Dealing with Deafness

The worst thing for a deaf cat is to be taken by surprise. This can happen when someone comes up behind you (so you are unable to see them) or touches you when you are sleeping, because you will not know they are there.

So when they enter your area, have them stamp their foot on the floor or rap their knuckles on the floor (if they are kneeling down) so you can sense the vibration. That gentle vibration will be your signal that they are near. And if you are asleep and appear not to notice AND they need to wake you for some reason, have them gently fan a piece of paper near you. You will sense the change in air currents and know they are around.

Of course, there will also be times when you will notice them by sight. However, tell them NOT to stare at you directly because they are being very rude. Only aggressive cats stare directly and that means they are up to no good. Unfortunately, many humans do not know this and then wonder why we cats get defensive. So tell them that they can look in your direction, purrhaps at a point just past you, but that they should NEVER look into your eyes because it is very intimidating.

Settling In

What will help you is having a routine you can depend on. I assume you are living with kind people would have a regular routine. Most people do, because they have to go to work and they come home a certain times and usually do tasks at certain times. Sometimes it varies if they have a day off, but mostly you can predict what they will do, when. And this will give you a sense of certainty.

If they have visitors, ask them to put you in a safe place away from them. It is too soon for you to be around a lot of strange people.

Stimulation to Keep Life Interesting

Every cat needs some stimulation – for physical exercise and to keep the mind sharp.

While you are alone, it would be helpful to have some things to play with and snuggle against: a small toy mouse, a soft, small ball (or a ping pong ball), or the cardboard from an empty toilet paper roll. Each of us has different likes and dislikes when it comes to toys, so they might have to try a few to see what interests you. (I like a small pouch of catnip which I bat around the room.)

If you enjoy your dry food, suggest that your purrsons make a food puzzle for you – using the cardboard from an empty toilet paper roll.

I really like my scratch pillow. It is a piece of material shaped like a long cylinder and stuffed with soft fabric and a bit of catnip. I cuddle with it and scratch along it with my hind paws.

You might like a hiding box – just an empty carton on the floor, put near but not in a corner and near a wall. You can sit in the box and watch the world go by. Such a box is best if it has two exits – a hole or large opening to go in and another one to go out. We cats don’t like single-entrance boxes just in case we get trapped.

You might also like to explore a large paper bag (no plastic, no handles). I have Herself roll up the rim a little to make it sturdy. She cuts off the handles so I don’t get caught in them. I she cuts a small peep hole in the back so I can see out the back and well as the front.

For toy ideas that your people can make for you, consult the following videos:
Make Homemade Cat Toys - actually a series of 15 different videos with lots of toy ideas.
Sock Toy
Home Made Puzzle Box
Food Puzzles

Getting Used to Interacting with People

Of course your purrsons will want to get you used to people again. Here are some suggestions:

Consult my entry, Only On My Terms – The Aloof Cat and the Cuddly Human (December 20, 2009) for tips on interactive play toys and suitable ways to use them. This is an important way to have fun and to relax.

From time to time, they can offer you a dry food treat. It should be either a pet treat or a dry food you don’t get to eat everyday, so that it is something special. They can start by putting a few pieces about a half-metre away (1.5 feet American) from you and see if you will come and take them. (They should stand back away from the treat by at least a metre - one yard in American - and make no move toward you at this time.)

Tell them to try different distances to find out the one that is most comfortable for you. And then, each day, they should lengthen the distance just a little bit (a few centimeters – think inches if you are American) so that you have to walk a little more to get the treat AND come a little closer to where they are.

If you are still comfortable, you will take the treat. If not, they need to make the distance a little greater again. The key is to shorten the distance between you and them very slowly, over the period of many, many days. Eventually you will get to the point of being able to come nearer to them for a treat. And then they can start offering a treat from their hand.

I hope I am making myself clear and if not, please let me know and I will try another explanation. And do remind them that one dry treat is the same as one cookie for a small child.


I suspect you may be wary of being touched and handled by humans.

Are you okay with being groomed?

Some of us will allow grooming but really don’t want to be petted.

To start with, have them approach you slowly and extend a hand out to you, about 30 centimetres (about a foot American) from you. IF and ONLY IF you approach the hand and give it a sniff, then they can gently stroke your cheeks a few times with a couple of fingers or the back of the hand. If you do not approach the hand, they should just withdraw and try again another time.

Again, they need to proceed slowly, never forcing you to do something you don’t want to. And over a period of many days, you may get to enjoy having your cheeks stroked. If you do, then they can proceed to gentle pets around your neck and the back of your head.

Let me know which of these suggestions work for you.
I wish you the very best,